Emotions and Decisions :
Why learn from your Emotions?

Until very recently, cognition (intellect) was clearly distinguished from emotions. Emotions were considered a handicap: they were likely to bias rational decision-making (traditions from Descartes, Kant, etc.). Thus, logically, it was preferable to entrust the task of decision making to one's intellect alone.

Over the last twenty years or so, research in neuroscience and neuroeconomics has been advancing in leaps and bounds, and has focused on emotions and the "making" of decisions.

Discoveries are multiplying and indicate that emotions are an integral part of decision making. 

We need the area of the brain where emotions are managed to make the right decisions.

The first "popular" book dealing with decision making and emotions was published by the neurologist Antonio Damasio in his book "Descartes' Error" in 1994.

Damosio cites several clinical cases where the subject had part of the prefrontal lobe removed as a result of a tumour or an accident. These patients retained their ability to think; they were still able to analyze, synthesize, compare, etc. Some even had an above-average IQ. However, their attitudes had changed. They were cold and detached and appeared unaffected by their surroundings. They were also unable to make a decision (even choosing a date for an appointment or choosing a restaurant). They were unable to return to their previous employment or social life.

What is the use of emotions in decision making?

Recent research indicates that emotions play 4 major roles in decision making:

  1. Emotions provide information (positive, negative or neutral feelings)
  2. Emotions improve the speed of decision making (important for dealing with dangerous situations)
  3. Emotions are used to evaluate the relevance of a decision (link with past experiences) 
  4. Emotions reinforce commitment (which helps maintain difficult choices) 

Learning from Emotions is fundamental to improve decision making, adopt appropriate behaviours and develop our Emotional Intelligence.

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